Unless you're ranked first in your law school class, have a perfect GPA, have never messed up when you were called on, never missed a class, and have done the impossible of being a perfect law student, chances are, you're always looking for a way to be a better law student. Some of these ideas might have you saying "duh!" or might not be the newest and most innovative tips, but if you follow all these little things, you'll be a better law student before you know it.
1. Brief. Every. Case.
The other day, one of my friends texted me and said "Bailey, help me! How do I study?" At first I laughed and asked if she was joking, but it turns out, she was serious. She told me that I always seem so prepared in class and asked what I do to be so sure of myself. I gave the absolute simplest answer, which is the cold, hard truth. Do all the readings, and brief every case.
Now, some of you are wondering, Isn't that what I'm supposed to be doing anyway? Well, yes. But how many of you actually do it? Which trust me, I totally get it. With the amount of cases read each day, briefing every single one on your own is a lot of work. It might seem so much easier to grab a brief online, "book brief" using different colored highlighters, or simply jot down the rule of the case in your notes and call it a day. But nothing will prepare you better for getting cold called by sitting down and writing out your own brief for the case. Even if it's a simple brief, thinking about it on your own and writing your personal version of the case will help you understand the material so much better.
If you need help briefing cases, check out my earlier post for some help!
2. Get Enough Sleep
For God's sake, why does every law student have the absolute worst sleep schedule out of anyone I have ever met? I swear, every morning there is a handful of students in each class that clearly just rolled out of bed and came to class, and has a look on their face showing that they only got maybe three hours of sleep the night before. And it's unsurprising when you look over halfway through class and they are dozing off in class, ready to embarras themself when the professor calls on them.
So what's the best way to avoid this? Get enough sleep! Pretend you're five years old, and set a sleep schedule for yourself. I have a rule that on school nights, I have to be in bed by 10:30 p.m. No joke. This way, when my alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m., it's way less painful. I make sleeping a priority over my social life, which is probably the reason I can do this. But it helps me be a better student, which is totally worth it!
3. Find Stress Relief That You Love
Today it was a beautiful, sunny, 65 degree day and I took the opportunity to walk around campus with my iced coffee just listening to music and enjoying the day. While I've been working on writing my first writing assingment of the semester, you have no idea how calming it was to just take an hour to myself to just enjoy the day. This is my way of relieving stress. On the worst, most stressful days, I find myself strolling around campus, or the town that I live in, and walking all of my worries away. Some days, when the weather doesn't cooperate, I resort to other stress-relief methods. Things I really enjoy are crocheting, yoga, coloring, and calling my friends. Find what works for you and I promise it can make a huge difference in your day.
4. Take Notes Online
Imagine this - on your computer you have the most exquisite set of notes that you have ever seen. Contains every definition. Links to the Restatement. Textbook page references in the footnotes. And any, and every piece of information you need for the final exam. And then, because technology is excellent, your computer crashes right before finals, and everything is lost. Including your notes. Believe it or not, this will happen to someone you know every semester. Don't let it happen to you - this is completely avoidable.
I think I've mentioned before that I use Evernote to take my notes for class, and I absolutely love it. It stores all of my notes online, saves in real time, and this way I can access them from anywhere on any device without taking up storage on my computer. This is especially nice, because the truth is that sometimes, shit happens. Your computer crashes, or dies, or files get deleted. If you use an online note-taking platform, your notes will be immune from such disasters. Plus, it's a great way to organize your notes by class, keep folders, and share notes with your friends. Some people use OneNote or Google Drive, which work just the same - but I highly recommend you use one of these.
5. Get Involved!
Now, I know what you're thinking: Bailey, if I'm already overwhelmed with the load of law school work, why would I want to take on more stuff? Well, for several reasons actually. The first reason is that you deserve a break from reading cases all day, and that you might as well do something fun with your time that you enjoy. Secondly, you need to have a well-rounded resume to get jobs and internships. And lastly, it will teach you to priortize and force you to schedule your time better. I'm not saying you should go to some club event every night of the week - and God knows that you probably could if you wanted to, with the amount of events held on campus. I'm in two clubs on campus, and I probably only attend one to two events a month. I also am part of a volunteer association where I volunteer four hours a week. None of these extracurriculars take up that much of my time, but I have fun, gain experience, and have an awesome resume because of it.
6. Set Goals for Yourself; And then Reach Them!
One of my asummers in undergrad, I spent my days interning as a sales representative for a marketing company. It was absolutely awful. But one good thing did come from it - I became an expert in goal setting. I had to set daily, weekly, and montly sales goals for myself and my team, and focus on how I could acheive those goals. So I've had a lot of practice, and now goal setting is a huge part of my life.
Setting goals is important because it gives you something to strive for and a bottom line of what you are working for. In law school, I have a goal for the semester, a goal for each school year, and a goal for graduation. These are small, attainable goals - but it doesn't mean they are easy. But I know that I will stay motivated and focused to reach this one thing. I mentioned before that my goal for the semester is to get one more "A" than last semester. It's specific, acheivable, but also not easy. I'll have to work for it, but if I want it bad enough, I can do it. I highly recommend you sit down, make a goal for yourself, write it down, and then make it your focus each day to acheive that goal.
All in all, being a good law student is a summary of all the little things that you do to make yourself better. These are a few little tips, and there are tons more out there. But if you make little, positive changes each day, you'll be on your way to a better you in no time.